This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
- Black - Part 8
Maureen has hit rock-bottom, and John is very close.
From Part 8
John pulled into his driveway. He could see the TV flickering through the lace curtains. Knowing he had been double-crossed again, John was not in the mood for TV. His plan was to go straight to bed and pretend all was well.
“Kent. Turn off the TV. I’m going to bed.” John reached for the remote.
“No, Dad. Wait! I’m watching a special report about those burglaries taking place. The police are closing in. Won’t it be great when the cops finally catch those creeps?”
John took a second look. The TV anchor’s voice was loud and clear. “Here is a picture of the one who shot and killed Park Bank manager, Jenny Jackson last night taken from bank surveillance. The picture isn’t perfectly clear, but if anyone knows this man, please contact the police immediately.”
Kent squealed, “Dad, that looks like you holding the gun. If I didn’t know you better, Dad, I’d swear that was you. Pretty cool, don't you think!”
"Yeah - real cool."
John staggered off to bed emotionally, mentally, and by now, physically drained, John felt a deep sleep approaching – but that was not to be.
He stared at the ceiling. He tried reading a book. He counted sheep. By 2:00 a.m., sleep still hadn’t come. He kicked the blanket off and crawled to his desk. It was time to evaluate his life – where he has been; where he was going.
For years John had a solid job working for Max. He paid well. The hours weren’t bad. Benefits? They couldn’t be beaten. And besides all else, he enjoyed his work and coworkers. All of it, destroyed in an instant. And for what? Something he was not responsible for? John didn’t know how the money came up short at Max’s office, but he knew it wasn’t his fault. His weary mind fought to find answers, but there were none.
John found himself working for Charles by the next day. The timing was right. The money, even better. Then he realized Charles never paid him, and his checking account came up thousands of dollars short. He worked in good faith believing the government hired him to perform a secret good Samaritan mission returning stolen money to the victim.
His pain doubled down as reality set in again. He stole for Charles and Stranger. He had been nothing more than a pawn. Not only was he penniless, but he was without his wife. Another wave of emotional numbness shot through his body.
The phone rang. The voice was unmistakable, “Mr. Black, what were you thinking? You shot a woman in cold blood. Your picture is all over the news. Let’s just cut to the chase. I can’t afford to have you picked up by the police. You know way too much. You’re a threat to the organization. I’m going to kill you. Then I’m coming after the kid and the Mrs. You’ve been given fair warning. You won’t – no, you can’t - get away. It would be better for you if the police did pick you up first. But trust me. That’s not going to happen.”
John’s racing mind took him to places he didn’t want to go. He hastily threw some clothes in a suitcase and ran to Kent’s room. “Come on. Come on. Come on. Kent, there’s an emergency. I can’t explain right now. Grab some clothes and let’s go. I’m taking you to Grandma and Grandpa. Then I have to go make sure Mom is safe.”
“Dad, you’re acting crazy. What’s going on?”
“Like I said, I can’t explain right now. I just need to make sure you and Mom are safe.”
John pulled the SUV out of the garage when he noticed a car coming down the street. He cut the lights. A police cruiser drove by the house. John slid below the seat as a spotlight scanned the area. His emotions ran high. He didn’t want to take the chance of being arrested with Kent in the car, but he had no choice. He turned on to the highway and drove to his parent’s house in the suburbs, making sure not to speed. They arrived just as day was breaking. John’s mother saw the headlights as they pulled in and met them at the door.
“Well, my son, the early riser. This must be a special visit. You’re never out of bed before 7:00.”
“Mom, listen. I can’t explain right now. I have to be going, but I need to leave Kent with you. It’s a long story – maybe sometime. But I need to be going. You’ll take care of Kent?”
“Well, sure. When will you be back?”
“Mom, I need to go.”
He gave Kent a hug, kissed his mother, and started back to the city.
Making sure he wasn’t followed, he turned into the hospital parking lot. He bought a bouquet of roses at the hospital flower shop and walked confidently to Maureen’s room. With his head held high, he smiled at the nurses and doctors as they passed. Day shift – they wouldn’t recognize him.
With the help of medication, Maureen slept through the night. She calmed down and was ready to listen to John.
“Look Honey, I know our life has taken a turn for the worst lately . . .” she listened but still wasn’t in a forgiving mood. “I love you, but I have to leave for a few days. Things went terribly wrong working for Charles. I take full responsibility, but he’s hunting me down to kill me. Then he’s coming after you and Kent.”
To John’s surprise, Maureen was silent, with no reaction. He continued. “As soon as they release you, go straight to my mother. Kent is there. Don’t go home for anything. The house is being watched. You’ll be safe at my Mom’s house until I can get back. Promise me.”
There was something genuine about John. She promised.
Maureen turned on the morning news as John bent over to kiss her. She was horrified. The excited voice of the anchor drew her attention. He asked a simple question, “Do you know this man?” The picture showed John pointing a gun at Jenny Jackson, the same picture Kent saw the night before. Maureen screamed. The nurses came running.
“Get him out of here! Get the jerk out of here!” Maureen continued to scream. The head nurse approached John. “Mr. Black, we have a report from the night shift you were causing trouble. It won’t happen on my shift. You need to leave right now.”
“Yes. Yes, I’m leaving - right now.” John hurried down the hall.
One of the nurses comforted Maureen as the other glanced at the TV screen. “You know, that man in the surveillance video looks familiar. I think I should know him. He looks so famil . . . Maureen, that’s your husband. That’s your husband!” She chased him down the hall. Stop that man! Somebody stop that man!”
John ran to the staircase. He jumped over the railing landing on the second floor. He repeated the action in an effort to reach the first-floor exit door. A perfect plan if he didn’t trip on the rail – but he did. He fell face-first on the next floor. A crowd of people closed in fast. John had to hurry, but a throbbing pain in his ankle made it hard to walk, much less run.
The nurse was still yelling for him to stop as he hobbled to the exit. “Someone, hit the switch. Lock the exit door!”
The automatic door opened and John started through. A doctor hit the lockdown switch and the door slammed shut, grabbing the back of John’s jacket in the process. The door remained tight as John tried to free himself. In the distance, the police sirens wailed.
Time was running out quickly for John Black. He would have preferred Charles to find him rather than the police. If he was taken into custody, Maureen and Kent would no doubt be executed. Charles wouldn’t know how much they knew about his operation and would need to kill them. If he was captured by Charles, maybe, just maybe he could reason with him and save his family.
There was only one thing left to do. He tugged at the sleeves of his jacket. A little at a time, his arms slipped out. The jacket remained trapped in the door as John dashed for his car. Two patrol cars passed John as they entered the hospital parking lot. He was undetected and headed south.
His phone rang. The now-familiar but dreaded voice of Charles spoke. “You caused quite an uproar at the hospital. Good job getting away. I commend you. Don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt your wife and kid. After all, I do have morals. I know they don’t know anything other than what they hear on TV. Besides, I may need them to lead me to you.
“Now we could make this easy. Just meet me at the Maryland border. We need to talk. Let me put it another way. If you don’t meet with me, the next time you see my face you’ll have a pistol pressed against your forehead. The bottom line, Mr. Black, is that you are being tracked. We know exactly where you are, and it’s just a matter of time until we have you. Your choice. We can talk - or you can die. What will it be?
© 2021 William Kovacic